In late 2006, Consumers’ Checkbook filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) in Federal District Court seeking an order compelling HHS to release Medicare claims data, including individual physician identifiers, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The judge in Consumers’ Checkbook vs. HHS on August 22, 2007, ruled against HHS and stated the FOIA exemption does not apply to Medicare claims data. Last week HHS filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit. The American Medical Association (AMA) is planning to jointly file an amicus brief urging appellate court review and reversal of the August 2007 ruling.

Without an appeal of the decision in Consumers’ Checkbook vs. HHS, the agency would have been required to disclose Medicare data under FOIA and the Privacy Act would no longer provide any protection against disclosure of physician identifiable Medicare information.

Information on the outcome of the appeal will be released by HHS when the outcome is revealed, and will be communicated to AASM members on the Web site.